§ucaba | Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

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Brewed by:
Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
California, United States

Style: English Barleywine

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 12.50%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
2011 Reserve Series Bottle Notes:
O.G. 27 Plato
F.G. 4.7 Plato
I.B.U. 42 units
Yeast: British Ale (House)
Cases: 1500 produced
Color: 36SRM (Dark Ruby)

2014 Bottle Notes
O.G. 27 Plato
F.G. 4.7 Plato
I.B.U. 42 units
Yeast: British Ale (House)
Cases: 3500 produced
Color: 36SRM (Dark Ruby)

Matured for 1 year in a blend of Heaven Hill, 4 Roses, and Old Fitzgerald barrels.

Added by SacoDeToro on 02-21-2008

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Reviews: 877 | Ratings: 4,988
Photo of mulder1010
3.42/5  rDev -23.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

bomber poured into a tulip

Thanks to Nicks 6217 for the beer

A-- Poured and settled a dark cola color. Shows lots of carbonation and a quick sprouting and fading light brown head, otherwise a light brown ring around the sides. Lots of ruby showing when held to the light. Not a lot of head retention to this at all.

S-- Carmel, lots of carmel. Undertones of bourbon, vanilla, and coconut. had a bottle in May and the vanilla and coconut nose was much bigger and the Carmel was a bit softer. Still a good nose though. Alcohol is quite well hidden.

T-- Syrupy butterscotch, bourbon, touches of oak, vanilla and noticeable alcohol. Gums got numb on first few sips of the beer.

M-- Thick, syrupy and slightly jam like. Get some notes of strawberry jam in the mouth. Bourbon and the barrel are really apparent in the mouth as well. Bourbon alcohol finish to this with touches of jam like qualities. I think starting to turn into a malt bomb. Medium full body and slightly more carbonation than it needed. A bit prickly at times.

O-- Thought much better fresher when I first had it. The barrel notes far more obvious in the nose then. Just starting to develop the jam like qualities that barlewines have. Careful cellaring might be really good for the beer, though I preferred the fresher version much more. Odd balance of strawberry and bourbon now than not sure I really like.

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Photo of YaKnowBrady
4.85/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Thanks to Gueuzehead for the hook up.

Really excited to drink this guy. I've had it before, but am glad to be reviewing it this time.

Poured into a Magic Chouffe Tulip.

Pours a dark brown, like a Belgian Strong Dark Ale. Light, smooth head, that gives way quickly. Hazy clarity, but not from being too cold, or yeast residue. This was from the first half of the bottle, and was poured carefully.

Aroma shows lots of vanilla, bourbon, tannin and caramel. The alcohol is masked in the overall, which is surprising for 13%.

The flavor is much like the smell, delivering on those promises made to my olfactories. So mellow, so smooth. The Frank Sinatra of beverages. An easy drinker, continuing to hide the high ABV. Absolutely delicious.

Second half of the bottle goes into a large snifter, and is swirled to blend leftovers. Still remains slightly hazy, but not chunky. Taste continues to be phenomenally balanced and smooth.

I'm glad I have some more of this. A top 5 brew for me, in my book.

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Photo of srandycarter
4.19/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4


A - Murky prune brown. No head to speak of. Small ring. Not much lace.

S - Leather, tobacco, cooked dark pitted fruits, booze, ripe fruit.

T - HUGE flavors. Many of the smell attributes but bumped up, mostly in booze, cooked fruits and leather.

M - Hard to balance this thing, but pretty good job. Medium to heavy body, carbonation there just enought.

D - Check please!

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Photo of SFLpunk
4.44/5  rDev -0.4%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

22oz brown glass pry-top bottle. 2011.

Pours a deep, dark, opaque brown with very little head. Nose is like butterscotch (not faulted), sweet vanilla, boozy whiskey, sticky caramel, etc. Palate is wide and thick, choc-ful-o-flavor. Lots of the same characteristics from the nose but less butterscotch. Viscous but not cloying. The alcohol is warming and pleasant. Lots of bourbon flavor but it's well integrated.

Notes: Usually I detest bourbon barreled barleywines, but this one is stellar. The integration, the marriage of wood and beer, is just perfect. I think this is better than Parabola (shhh....) Well done FW.

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Photo of ColForbinBC
4.42/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

22oz bottle poured into a snifter

Thanks to ShanePB for the trade.

Pours a garnet/ruby color with a minimal tan head. No lacing, no retention, but that is somewhat expected for the style and abv (13%).

This is a treat. Oak, vanilla and toffee greet the nostrils with a firm layer of fusel alcohol underneath. Amazingly complex. Dark cherries and ripe plums lend a fruity sweetness that works in concert with the barrel flavors and some raisins/figs.

On the palate, this guy is far from bashful. Fusel alcohol throughout; really no shame in letting it rip. Toffee is prominent, with oak, vanilla, cherries, plums and figs rounding it all out.

Medium to full body, smooth, with a bit of expected roughness from the booze. The finish is sugary and boozey. As boozey as this is, you don't get the warming/heat down the throat to get in the way of all this flavor.

This is an elite english style barleywine, my preferred style of barleywine. Large toffee notes with loads of sweetness and some nice dryness from the oak.

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Photo of hopsbreath
3.44/5  rDev -22.9%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Re-review 10-27-11
Thanks again to Arbitrator for yet another bottle. The signature Bay Area wax job let's me know it's genuine.

A: Unchanged. 5/5
S: Easy enough to smell, but the vanilla notes are gone. Still there is the bourbon and wood. Not sure it's really setting itself apart anymore. 3.5/5
T: Bourbon barrel forward still with a bunch of stone fruit right behind it. Sweet malts lingering but the overwhelming complexity is definitely diminished. 3/5
M: Unchanged. 4/5
O: I still enjoyed this beer, but it's not quite as distinctive now as it was fresher. More middle of the pack and forgettable albeit non-offensive. 3.5/5

Big thanks goes out to Arbitrator for sending one of these up my way. I'm still hoping to buy one off the shelf when (if) it hits Portland but at least now I can get a taste. Bomber split with TulipSnifter. I used a Captain Lawrence snifter and she used a Mad Elf snifter.

A: Very dark garnet bordering on black at the thickest part of the glass. Other brewery's might try to call this a "black barleywine". Firestone Walker simply calls it "barleywine ale", like that's the way the style should be. A good two fingers of cappuccino like head forms on top with a vigorous pour. No lacing, but it has legs. Looks to be nice and syrupy. You drink with the eyes before the taste buds and my eyes like what they see. 5/5

S: The same -bal notes I find in Parabola are definitely here. Spice, vanilla, sharp wood, and some beautiful chocolate covered coconut sweetness promise quite a bit. My one complaint is that the aroma, while complex, isn't as strong as I would like. 4.5/5

T: Tongue numbing bourbon bites right off the bat. Sweet artisanal chocolate candies represent the malt base very well. Cherry cordials are one of those candies. Nice vanilla notes, sugary caramel, and some toast are other flavors I can pick well. I'm having a hard time not giving the perfect score here. Are there any faults? Do I wish something was better? I'm going to say it might be a touch hot right now. The bourbon is great but in 3-6 months I can see the directness of the heat smoothing out a little bit and really tying this thing up. 4.5/5

M: Thick and viscous with low carbonation. The finish is sticky but no more than expected for a 13% barleywine. I'm okay with a good rating here. 4/5

O: Quite the enjoyable beer. Big, boozy, sweet... Some of my most enjoyable characteristics of beers that get it right. FW delivers yet another winner. If these bottles ever get up to Portland, I'll be buying some more. I'd recommend anybody who see's these to buy, buy,buy. 4.5/5

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Photo of Centennial
4.45/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Bottle shared and poured into snifter.

A.Reddish Burgandy layered over darker tan body, amazing legs on side of snifter when swirled, looks very sticky.

S. Bourbon, oak, vanilla, marachino cherries.

T. Caramel coated plums with Vanilla beans floating in Bourbon, oak resinyness and alcohol with mild bitter/spicy finish.

M. Slick, syrupy but very drinkable and finish lingers making you crave for more.

O. Excellent, #1 or #2 Barrel aged Barley wine in my book, can't get enough of it and have plenty of this in the cellar.

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Photo of Simmy7000
4.5/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bomber into Founder's Snifter glass

A- Pours a dark brown with a thin tan head that disappears as quickly as it arrived. When held up to light it shines a beautiful dark ruby color. A large amount of floaties are present throughout the beer. No lacing is present as drinking commences.

S- Large oak/bourbon along with dark fruit notes take center stage with some toffee, coffee, and vanilla hiding in the background. Hints of booze to remind you this is a monster of a beer.

T- Extremely complex blend of sweet caramel, chocolate, dark fruits, and coffee all sprinkled over a very large oak/bourbon backbone. A smooth, creamy vanilla is faintly evident throughout each taste. Everything is in harmony with no single component distracting from the others. A great warming presence from the alcohol, leading to a faint burn as the glass makes its way to room temperature.

M- Pretty heavy body but a decent amount of carbonation gives this beer a creamy, smooth mouthfeel. The heavy body and building alcohol warmth/burn as this beer warms make this a great sipper.

O- What a treat it is to drink this beer. A skillfully crafted beer this is very complex and a pleasure to sip on throughout the night. Glad I have a few more to try for the long Chicago winter ahead of me.

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Photo of afdempse
4.88/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Thanks to Huhzubendah for the bottle!

Pours a deep ruby color with an espresso crema head. Head retention and lacing are unheard of for a beer of this strength.

Aroma of bourbon, dark fruits, and oak. Very nice!

Extraordinarily complex blend of bourbon, oak, vanilla, tobacco, leather, and more. The flavors swirl together in a way that is completely harmonious and complementary. Alcohol is there, but in a way that enhances completely and never distracts.

Silky smooth and velvety mouthfeel. Creamy, with just enough carbonation. Hops provide a nice balancing support in the back end that keeps things in check and doesn't allow for the sweetness to enter cloying territory.

Overall, one of the most enjoyable beers I've ever had. A shining example of the level of flavor that can be achieved through the use of bourbon barrels. Delicious.

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Photo of LiquidBread219
3.68/5  rDev -17.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A= Dark Ruby, just like the label said. Thin white head that disappears quick no lacing.

S= The nose is pretty complex. Sweet caramel, vanilla, some dark fruit, bourbon, and molasses. It also seems like there is some toasted malt in undertone of this beer.

T= The main thing that jumps out for me is the bourbon and vanilla they are pretty strong in the taste and really come through. I also pick on the molasses and dark fruit like figs or something like that. Nice roasted malt is the backbone in this beer.

M= I would say this is a Full bodied beer, with low carbonation.

O= Overall, I would say this is a very good barleywine and was perfect for a cold Oct. night. This is definitely a sipping beer and gets better as it warms up.

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Photo of fsvan
4.5/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bottle poured into New Belgium globe.

A- Dark ruby says the bottle. Seems about right. Rather dark. White thick, smooth head.

S- Caramel, oak, vanilla, bourbon. Slight alcohol. A cherry like tartness

T- Much like the nose. A big dose of caramel. Bourbon, vanilla. The alcohol is present.

M- Thick, mouth-coating. Well carbonated.

O- Pretty exceptional beer.

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Photo of OWSLEY069
4.65/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Batch 2011

Pours a deep amber to black in color with a light tan head. In the aroma, bourbon, vanilla, and oak. In the taste, mellow bourbon, and notes of dark fruit, oak, vanilla, and alcohol. A small bite, however mainly smooth, with a medium to bigger bodied mouthfeel, and a dryer alcohol and oaky aftertaste. Big bourbon, although the aftertaste is lacking, but fantastic otherwise.

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Photo of draheim
4.42/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

22oz bottle (2011 batch) poured into a snifter. Pours a reddish cola brown with a light tan head that dissipates pretty quickly to a thin film on the surface.

Aroma is bourbon, vanilla, and oak. Booze is really strong with this one.

Taste follows nose. Lots of bourbon, less vanilla & oak. Alcohol is present but not overpowering. Flavors move around a bit, nice complexity.

Just like w/ Parabola, a quick swirl of the snifter brings a bright flash of buttery, caramely bubbles up to the surface. Nice burst of bourbony aroma follows.

Overall a really good barleywine. Really sweet, great for slow sipping on a cold October night.

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Photo of Reagan1984
4.62/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Fun review to write. I’ve had this beer two times before today and I already know I love it. Time to enjoy some and finally post a review. Firestone makes some great beers and this is certainly one of them.

Even with an aggressive pour you still only get a ¼ inch of light tan wispy head. This quickly fades to a thin ring of foam around the edge. Some foam clings to the glass here and there. Almost appears to be more legs vs. lacing…. The beer has that barleywine ruby tone within the deep amber color.

The aroma is heaven. Layers of chewy sweet caramel, vanilla, some dark fruit. And some toasty goodness in the background from some nice malt.

The flavors here are so deep and fairly complex. Lots going on. Vanilla, coconut, again chewy caramel. A hint of dark fruits. Layers of toasty malt again mix with the caramel. Somehow this reminds me of something in the bread basket at an extremely high end restaurant. Sometimes they have a crusty/toasty sweet bread with some dark fruit in it. The different flavor components all meld in a wonderful way here. The warming sense of alcohol is really nice and wonderfully rounds. Not hot, just warming.

Velvet like again warming in your through and heart.

A bottle to share a beer to savor. A treat any time you have the chance.

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Photo of 1Adam12
4.38/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Dark mahogany color. Strong nose. Lots of vanilla and caramel, bourbon, alcohol. Tastes very good. Vanilla and carmel, quite a bit of bourbon. Nice balance. The bourbon doesn't dominate to dissipate the flavors from the barleywine. Very creamy and full. Slightly carbonated, possibly over carbonated IMO. Overall this was very good. I love that it is balanced and that the bourbon doesn't dominate. My main quarrel with BA barleywines is that the oak and bourbon take away from the flavors of the beer itself. This is nice.

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Photo of bonkers
4.77/5  rDev +7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

I poured from a bomber into a snifter, dark black pour with a slight white head, light lacing. The aroma has notes of oak , and vanilla, and a ton of dark fruit. The beer was definitely fruity(figs and dates), oak, vanilla, and a pleasant amount of booziness. It has a lingering fruity finish. The beer is full bodied, nice carbonatin and easy drinking for the ABV. An exceptional brew.

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Photo of xpimptastikx
3.76/5  rDev -15.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Dark brown, ruby highlights, thin sheet of off white head.
S - Brown sugar, raisins, and alcohol.
T - Molasses, vanilla, figs, leather, and alcohol.
M - Creamy carb and dry, with a warming sensation.
O - A slight let down. The nose is pretty one dimensional, and the alcohol is detected pretty easily. Definitely not the best BA English Barleywine, but pretty good.

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Photo of kingcrowing
4.09/5  rDev -8.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

22oz bomber poured into a snifter. 2011 bottle, batch 001.

Pours a dark mahogany/red with a super small head, basically just some light lacing around the rim. Nose is boozy, malty, rich dark fruit its sweet and earthy.

Taste is amazing, smooth and crisp, not boozy at all, butterscotch all day on the finish, it's rich and complex, dark fruits and candidate sugar flavors, oaky vanilla notes as well, very good.

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Photo of hdelavega
4.79/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This one was sent to me by BeerThursdays, thanks Jay.
Poured to a snifter, deep brownish red almost a plumb color it held a half finger light tan head for about a minute that dissolved thin film and then to nothing.
Very rich aroma. Very sweet, dark fruits, burnt sugar and carmal. Just a little bit of alcohol.
First sip is I get a lot of sweet flavors blended together. Lots of sweet malt, tart strawberry, tiny bit of bitterness there is defiantly some alcohol in the finish which is paired with oak flavors.
Mouth feel is super smooth, silky, the flavors really envelop the entire mouth.
Overall this is a fantastic beer, defiantly the best barleywine I've had to date.

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Photo of NickRivers
4.92/5  rDev +10.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

A&S - Pours a unique brownish ruby, with a bubbly thin tan head that pleasantly sits on top. Smells of dark malt, alcohol, woodiness, dark cherry, little raisin, nice vanilla, toffee, as well as a few spices.

T&M - Hits super sweet, and immediately you get that dark fruit, cherry vanilla flavor that builds to a wonderful woody alcohol burn that forms this amazing mouthgasm. Very nice alcohol burn and pretty heavy body. After taste is smokey, a little chocolate and toffee, but mostly that bourbon flavor which seems a little too much after a while.

O - Definitely a amazing sipper. Im not a Hard Liquor guy, but if I ever was, this would be my go to beer. I'm gonna cellar one of these as well, however I don't think i'll make it till then. Get you hands on one of these! They're amazing. Top 5 beer for sure! Cheers!

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Photo of rhong187
4.48/5  rDev +0.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

served in a pint glass at Capone's (notes taken from 2011 Philly beer week)

A - Despite the ABV, still retained a nice finger head that held nicely. dark caramel like color...

S - toffee, caramel, vanilla, with a miniscule amount of spice followed with a decent amount of alcohol.

T - sooo unbelievably smooth. the sweetness hits you right away, followed by a small bit of warming as it goes down.. Whew, this stuff can be dangerous with it's smoothness. Along the way, I can detect a bit of leather as well.. a very pleasurable mesh of flavors.

M- Medium bodied, with just enoughb carbonation.

Easily the best barleywine I've had to date, and another fantastic offering from FW. I'd suggest pciking it up while you can (still see some bottles floating around in SE PA)... cheers

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Photo of CuriousMonk
4.5/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Abacus is a barrel aged Barley Wine. Four barrels in total were selected for the blend. The base of this year’s offering was aged in Heaven Hill bourbon barrels for 3 years! The resulting beer is strong yet extremely elegant and smooth. Big boozy bourbon and American oak aromas combined with soft chocolate malty undertones. Complex malt flavors framed in oak, with hints of dark chocolate, vanilla, tobacco, coconut and just a touch of dark cherry. This is definitely a sipping beer and one of my favorite barleywines next to Old Numbskull.

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Photo of hooliganlife
4.28/5  rDev -4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

not sure who brought this, but thanks.

pour was a dark brown with hints of deep ruby. light creamy head. thick body, slight coating on glass.

very rich with sweetness and dark fruit. fairly strong vanilla and oak which blended well together.

very dominant bourbon which was smooth and rich. big dark fruits and sweet malts. lots of vanilla and rich vibrant oak.

very thick with a smooth velvety feel. some heat on the gums.

this was a delicious barleywine, much better than i anticipated.

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Photo of amphion1065
3.98/5  rDev -10.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Bomber into a Duvel tulip. Reviewed from notes.

Initially, this pours a nearly opaque deep ruby or garnet. But as I slowly made my way to the bottom of the glass, the beer appeared a fairly translucent reddish-brown. Half-finger light brown head filled with loose bubbles lasted less than a minute. A surprising amount of suspended yeast at the bottom of the bottle.

The smell is a rather musky collection of dark fruits. Plums and toffee, with just a little bit of caramel. Curiously, there's not too much barrel presence in the aroma. A touch of wood, maybe some coconut and vanilla, but it's light. Little to no alcohol phenols coming off of this one.

The taste departs significantly from the aroma in a very positive way. There's a ton of booze in this beer, and it is hot going down. The -bal isn't overpowering, but there is a very strong woody character in play. Given how malty this beer is, the barrel-aging does wonders for balance. Prunes, cherries and toffee are all present, but this beer never seems cloying.

The mouthfeel is excellent - I wish all barleywines went down like this. Smooth and rich, with an appropriately low level of carbonation.

I suppose you can't judge a beer by its nose. What at first seemed like a potential letdown turned out to be an excellent barleywine. Though they're obviously quite different styles of beer, Abacus and Parabola are both very barrel-dominant - I think this is the more successful of the two, as the imparted flavors complement the base beer very well. I'll be curious to see if this improves down the road.

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Photo of acemathew
4.5/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Great dark pour.

Awesome head retention.

Smells like figs and prunes. Tons of ethanol on the nose. Perfectly aged smells a little oxidized. Smells smokey and nutty malty with a swirl definite chocolate.

Good balance nice mouthfeel not to bitter not too sweet not too oakey. This is much better than this same beer I had on tap at the Buelton tasting room. Tastes a little hot but what do you expect from 13%?

Good finish nice and clean.

Not too smokey not too oakey not too much hops but not very malty either.

Overall very good.

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§ucaba from Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
4.46 out of 5 based on 4,988 ratings.
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